‘SLT competing successfully with multinationals’


By Steve A. Morrell

‘Most people still think we are in the fixed line business. Let me tell you, that assumption was left behind quite a while back. We are now competing with multinationals. More so we maintain leadership in the telecom industry. Multiple broad band technology is adopted to achieve greater penetration. We have built a national broad band network to facilitate ICT highways. That brings us to an equal playing field, If I could call it that.

‘Band spread puts us in a competitive stance ; not merely in a local context, but internationally, Group CEO SLT Lalith de Silva told the Financial Review in a recent interview.

‘Our future plans include major investments,approximately Rs.25 billion 2014 -2015. Broad band, ADSL, improvement to ICT services are also being pursued. Through such mega developments our intention is to further invest in new technologies: LTE, Carrier Grade WiFi, Cloud Computing, thereby enhancing the country’s global connectivity.

‘Fibre- to- the- Home ( FTTH), already deployed in most parts of the city, is currently a high tech advance to telecom facilities, enhancing efficiency and distinctly relating to user facilitation to ensure SLT services are always at levels of constant and continuous effectivity.

ICT services, already the main platform for growth, do not mean only a telecom context, but nationally, adherence to the five hub strategy. Commercial, maritime, knowledge, aviation, energy and tourism, de Silva said.

‘The constantly spreading user base with such improvement and in concurrence with international telecom services, rendered SLT a major player for success of these hub focuses. Additionally, the cost factor, with SLT operating at lowest cost, comparing other global players, made the impact to operat at competitive prices, he added.

Financial Review: ‘Talking of costs and so on, will we ever see a tariff free telephone call?

L de S:‘That is now a real possibility. But well in context with your question, a tariff free phone call will come. Yes we might see that as routine. But you will have to pay for such facilities. You already are paying for telecom services. The call itself could be free but services that make it free, you will have to pay. Yes, I agree we have skype; but such penetration too you have to pay for. Maybe indirectly, but there will be some sort of payment. Nothing is free.

‘The success of SLT is that we have an open door policy. Everybody is accessible. Don’t forget we have about 8000 employees and 36 unions. But significantly, we have no industrial disputes. Thanks to our Chairman and his open door policy, whatever we do is discussed with our work force. Their representatives. If there are any grey areas, whatever they are, such are discussed and through collective discussion and after explaining benefits for the organization, whatever new is implemented.

Financial Review: ‘How about research and development? Have you an annual budget? If so how much do you spend each year?’

L de S: ‘The "new" aspects of what we do, as already explained, is on – going, and the sum already allocated being what it is, holds true for two years. Thereafter, there would be further development that would keep SLT ahead. But don’t be under the impression that there are areas for controversy. Policy matters are policy matters. Generally speaking, we are on an even playing field.

‘Innovation and adherence to fresh thinking is our corner stone. That too, we have some first class people who have taken SLT forward. All our people. To further answer your question, we sponsor those who wish to take their PHDs. If you ask about Research and Development, we have our people who come up with ideas.

‘The adage ‘ Change to Lead, Lead the change’, is an applicable guideline throughout our organization. We have a high performing organization for better results.

(Full interview to appear in the Sunday Island of January 11)

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